Having a pet comes with responsibilities – whether a dog or a cat. In addition to cat and dog dental care, one of your responsibilities as an owner is to keep them updated on their vaccinations. Not only does this help protect them from potentially deadly diseases, but it also helps keep other pets safe as well.
For your feline friend, read on for a list of the most critical vaccinations and when they should ideally be given.
Importance of Vaccines to Your Cats
Vaccines (more information here) help protect cats from diseases that can be deadly. They can contract these diseases from other cats, wild animals, and even people.
It works by injecting a killed or weakened form of a virus into your cat. As their immune system fights off the “invader,” they develop immunity to that particular disease. If they are ever exposed to the disease in the future, their immune system is primed and ready to fight it off, keeping them healthy and safe.
There are different types of vaccines available for cats, and your veterinarian will recommend a vaccination schedule based on your cat’s age, health, lifestyle, and risk of exposure to diseases.
The Core Vaccines Every Cat Needs
There are two vaccine types: core and non-core. Core vaccines are recommended for all cats, regardless of their lifestyle or risk of exposure to disease.
Non-core vaccines are only recommended for cats at a high risk of exposure to a certain disease.
The core vaccines you should give your cats include:
1. Feline Panleukopenia (FPV, also called feline distemper)
Feline distemper is a highly contagious and deadly disease that affects all cats, indoor and outdoor. It is caused by a virus attacking the gastrointestinal system, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. Kittens are especially vulnerable to this disease because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
You should have your kittens vaccinated against feline distemper as soon as they are old enough. The initial vaccine is given at eight weeks, followed by a twelve-week booster shot. After that, they will need a booster shot every year for the rest of their life.
2. Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
Feline calicivirus is another highly contagious virus that can cause respiratory infections in cats, including rhinotracheitis (a viral upper respiratory infection). This virus is often spread through direct contact with an infected cat or through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as food bowls or litter boxes.
Cats of all ages can be vaccinated against feline calicivirus, but kittens are particularly vulnerable to this disease. Three FVC shots are recommended for cats. The initial shot should be given at eight weeks, and then two more booster shots, given four weeks apart. After that, cats will need a yearly booster shot.
3. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline leukemia virus is a fatal virus that attacks a cat’s immune system, making them susceptible to other diseases. This virus is often spread through close contact with an infected cat, such as sharing food bowls or litter boxes. It can also be spread through biting and fighting.
Cats exposed to this virus are outdoor cats or live in multi-cat households. They should be vaccinated, with the initial vaccine given at eight weeks, followed by two booster shots four weeks apart. Kittens will need a booster shot every year for the rest of their life, while adult cats will need a booster every three years.
4. Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 (FHV-1)
Feline herpesvirus type 1 is a virus that causes upper respiratory infections in cats, including rhinotracheitis. It is one of the most common viruses affecting cats and can cause severe illness, especially in young kittens.
This virus is often spread through direct contact with an infected cat or through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as food bowls or litter boxes.
Cats of all ages can be vaccinated against FHV-1, but kittens are particularly vulnerable to this disease. Three FHV-1 shots are recommended for cats, with the initial shot given at six to eight weeks and then an additional dose every three to four weeks until 16 to 20 weeks of age. After that, cats will need a yearly booster shot.
Rabies is a fatal virus that attacks the nervous system and is spread through contact with saliva or other bodily fluids from an infected animal. Regardless of their lifestyle or risk of exposure to this disease, all cats should be vaccinated against rabies.
The initial rabies vaccine is given at four months of age, and then booster shots are given every one to three years, depending on the vaccine used.
Choosing the Right Vet
Not all vets are the same. You must choose one who you feel comfortable with and trust.
Consider touring the facility, meeting the staff, and asking questions. You should also find out if the vet has experience caring for cats and whether they are up-to-date on the latest feline health information. If they have specialists, such as this cat and dog internal medicine specialist, you know they can provide the best care for your cat.
It’s also good to get referrals from friends or family members who have cats. Once you’ve found a vet you’re comfortable with, stick with them for all of your cat’s healthcare needs.
The Bottom Line
Vaccinations protect your cats from deadly diseases. Make sure you use a vet you trust and that your cat is up-to-date on their vaccinations. Booster shots are also important to keep your cat protected throughout their lifetime.
This is especially important for kittens, who are more vulnerable to disease. A good rule of thumb is to get them vaccinated at eight weeks, then at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. After that, they will need a booster shot every year for the rest of their life.